WRON AM 1400 became Greenbrier County’s first on the air radio station on May 7th, 1947, in The Grand Theatre Building in Ronceverte. It was the first radio station serving a city of under 10,000 people in the USA. Behind the microphone was Bill Blake III of
Ronceverte, owner and manager, who had experience in radio. Blake is quoted from an old newspaper article as saying,
“I did a little bit of everything, newscaster, announcer and disc jockey. We would broadcast the football games from all around the area. The Ronceverte Ice and Produce Company, RIPCO, would bring one of their trucks and I would sit upon it and broadcast the games.”
Remembering people from the halls of WRON, Blake mentions, “We’ve had people go from here to bigger stations, but I guess one of the most famous people we’ve had work here was Tom T. Hall. He wrote ‘Harper Valley PTA’ while working here and you know the rest of the story”.
Among other famous people to visit the station was Bill Monroe and his bluegrass band, Tex Ritter, Grandpa Jones, and Johnny Olson, said Blake.
WRON Radio has had just a few owners over the years including Roy Wooster, Elaine Pugh and Mike Kidd. WRON is now owned By Todd P. Robinson, a businessman from Greensboro, N.C., but also owns a home in Greenbrier County.
On hand to help celebrate the 75th Anniversary on Saturday, May 21, was Mike Kidd, formerly the Owner and General Manager at Radio Greenbrier who retired after 45 years of service.
In a live radio interview, Kidd was asked what radio was like back in his era.
Kidd said, “radio was fun, and has changed so much since I started back in 1970. Nothing is done the same today as it was back then. I worked with a wonderful group of people here at Radio Greenbrier. There are some amazing stories that I could tell you. I can tell you this, I was very fortunate to have met and married a beautiful hometown girl because of radio.”
Kidd was also asked about the community’s support over the years, and he responded, “because of all the wonderful support given to these stations by our local businesses, I continue even today to do business with them.”
Larry Carver, former chief engineer was unable to attend, but reminds us that he spent 44 years at WRON.
“Carver was the guy who technically kept the stations running. If there was an off-air issue, or a change in programming that required a receiver to be reprogrammed or a phone line that was down, he was the man who fixed it,” said Gregory Howard, Radio Greenbrier’s new general manager.
The staff of Radio Greenbrier together as a team welcomed guests to the celebration by serving food from local businesses who partnered with them. A special thanks to Hog Wild BBQ, Kroger of Ronceverte, Par Mar Stores, Jim’s Drive In, Carlito’s Mexican Restaurant, Papa Johns, Amy’s Market, Sunset Berry Farms.
Also, Greenbrier Cut Flowers, Blue Moon Bagels, GEHS JROTC and Josh Crane. Guests were also invited to register for a trip giveaway to Nashville, Tenn., that was won by Bernard Jackson.
Seventy-Five balloons were also released in honor of the years of operation. One balloon was tagged with a $75 certificate that if found can be returned to Radio Greenbrier to claim your prize. Participating in the release was Ashton Hill, Buddy Bear; Pat Williams, host of Swap Shop; Debbie Yates, sales manager; Scott Canterbury, production and traffic and key accounts manager, Kidd; Jeff Campbell, sports broadcaster; Gregory “Big Al” Howard, current general manager and host of Highway 64; Ralph Church, board operator; and Grace Boxwell, former office manager.
“On behalf of our ownership, management team and staff, I would like to thank everyone who came out and or helped by donating food, drinks and other goods to make this day very special for all involved! Please know that we appreciate the last 75 years of support and hope to be here for another 75 years to continue serving this community with local radio,” said Yates.